Hebert (l) & Christopher Sabat
CHRISTOPHER SABAT REVELS IN BEING A BAD GUY.
can be really mean to kids and they love it, he says with
a fiendish grin. Sabat, who studied radio at UNT, is the voice director
for the animated series Dragon Ball Z. But the best part
of his job is voicing the character of the evil warrior prince,
this character thats fueled by anger and revenge, Sabat
says. But somehow he has this huge following of kid fans.
one of dozens of animated characters in the series voiced by UNT
alumni. FUNimation, the North Texas company bringing this Japanese
hit to Cartoon Network in America, also consists mostly of former
a Japanese myth called The Monkey King, the original
Dragon Ball follows the adventures of Goku, a little boy
with super-human powers and a monkey tail. Dragon Ball Z
and Dragon Ball GT focus on an adult Goku and his offspring.
balls are mystical orbs that, when brought together, summon a powerful
dragon who grants the user any wish imaginable. The characters spend
much of their time either protecting or finding the dragon balls.
series spanned an unprecedented 11 years on Japanese television,
from 1986 to 1997. Internationally, it has a strong following akin
to Star Wars, with translations in German, Italian, Chinese
almost like theres some kind of magic attached to the series,
Sabat says. Wherever it goes, its incredibly popular.
States was one of the last and largest countries for Dragon Ball
to conquer. And the UNT alumni at FUNimation have the task of making
all three parts of the series succeed.
(97), the animation editor, cant say why Dragon Ball
took so long to reach the United States (the first saga began showing
here in 1993). But he can say its a huge effort preparing
it for American consumption.
as many as 80 hours a week editing animation cels during
Gokus epic battles, more than a few characters get bloody
noses or cuts, something Americans arent receptive to in cartoons,
one of FUNimations first employees, started the job working
through the night, sleeping on the office couch and attending UNT
art classes during the day. The workload was so heavy that he soon
asked fellow classmate Carly Hunter (97) to help out.
thats how we got employees friends asking friends for
help, Hunter says. We were a much smaller company then
thats what makes this place so laid back.
success of the series has FUNimation expanding into DVDs and action
figures, but the casual atmosphere remains. Employees show up in
T-shirts and jeans and, on special occasions, in shirts plastered
with Dragon Ball Z images. Dragon Ball toys, videos
and posters litter the place.
of UNT alumni working at FUNimation has also grown.
(88 M.S., 92 M.S.), a UNT librarian, voices two of the
most lovable Dragon Ball Z characters Chiaotzu, a
doll-faced hero, and Puar, a blue shape-shifting cat.
part of Antonellis job is matching her voice and intonation
to the animation. Normally, animators draw characters to match the
voice actors, but Dragon Ball Z is done in reverse.
theyll ask me to do things like sound scared and kind of excited,
but kind of happy and sad all at once, Antonelli says. At
the same time youre watching the animation on a TV screen
trying to talk in sync with the characters mouth.
she warms up her voice singing and talking to herself during
the commute to North Richland Hills before performing the
high-pitched tones of Puar and Chiaotzu.
after recording three hours it feels like Ive been lifting
weights, she says. These characters take a lot of energy,
really pushing out the sound.
a bit of an expert at wacky voices, after stints as a puppeteer
and as Whiffles the Bunny, the Denton Public Library mascot. Its
not the kind of career or fame she envisioned, but you take what
you get, she says.
cant help but be impressed by her semi-stardom.
occasionally check out some of the web sites for the show to see
what fans are saying, she says. And I can always find
a fan who asks, Are you the real Monika? I dont
know why anyone would want to impersonate me.
compares Dragon Ball Z fans to Trekkies, enjoys the love-hate
relationship most fans have with his characters. Along with Vegeta,
Sabat voices Piccolo, an evil alien who becomes a good guy.
remember at one of the conventions, I was signing autographs and
the kids kind of knew who I was, he says. When the next
kid came up and asked for an autograph, I said, No! Leave
me alone! in my Vegeta voice. The kids crowded the table screaming
fan came to visit Sabat at his new home, getting far too excited
about accompanying Vegeta to buy a new washer and dryer.
Its kind of weird and fun, Sabat says.
between fan and star blurs for Kyle Hebert (93). He is one
of the newest actors on the series, but hes been a fan since
his UNT college days.
always idolized people like Mel Blanc (who voiced Bugs Bunny),
Hebert says. And now I feel like Im getting to do that
with all of the characters I play.
the teen-age Gohan, Gokus son in the latest installment of
the American version of the series.
like to see what the fans think of my performance, he says.
So far Ive gotten mixed reviews, and everyone tells
me not to take it personally. I just think its neat to wake
up each morning to do this.
a cartoon character, and you just dont know how great that